Listening to a Continent Sing

the companion website to the book by Donald Kroodsma


Hotchkiss, Colorado

June 19, 5:54 a.m.

Sunrise at 5:33 a.m.

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A hyperactive male red-winged blackbird. He flies about me, almost within arm's reach, reacting strongly to my presence, and he calls beautifully. I have heard many red-winged blackbirds in my day, songs and calls, but these are the most beautiful calls that I've ever heard.

And how different these calls are from other dialects that we've heard across the country. These calls are the local dialect, to be sure, as another male can be heard in the background giving the same intense, slurred, tonal whistles that the focal male is giving (listen at 0:04, 0:09, 0:13; then, for a different call, at 0:18, 0:22).

Feast your ears on the variety of unique calls in this dialect. In so doing, you'll never listen to a marsh of red-winged blackbirds again, as you'll inevitably be listening far more carefully to the calls wherever you travel.

For starters, you could compare these Colorado calls to those back in that Illinois marsh (IL-138)


Brown-headed cowbird, other red-winged blackbirds, western meadowlark, common yellowthroat.


Photo by John Van de Graaff